Fuel Supplies Low As French Protest Pension Reform


Scattered fuel shortages rattled drivers and France's main airport warned that some flights must arrive with enough fuel to get back home as hundreds of thousands marched Saturday for the fifth time in a month to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62.

Frequent strikes in the last few weeks have hobbled French trains and airports, closed schools and docks, and left garbage piling up in the southern port of Marseille.

But now the airline industry is getting worried, after all of France's 12 fuel-producing refineries went on strike and many depots were blocked by protesters. Police were called in to force three crucial fuel depots to reopen Friday, including one outside Marseille.

The Civil Aviation authority sent out an advisory Friday night to airlines requiring short- and medium-haul flights to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport — one of Europe's key hubs — to arrive with enough fuel to get home, spokesman Eric Heraud said.

""They must come with a maximum capacity in their fuel tanks,"" Heraud said by telephone. ""Obviously, these instructions apply only to short- and medium-haul flights"" of less than four or five hours because trans-Atlantic flights cannot ""double carry"" fuel.

As fearful drivers headed to the pumps, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde urged the nation not to panic.

""Today, there is no reason, no reason, I repeat, to panic because there is no risk of shortages,"" she told BFM-TV on Saturday, noting that only 230 of the country's 13,000 gas stations were out of fuel. ""There are weeks of reserve.""